How to Play Blackjack Online

Online casino blackjack game table with cards
Online Casino Blackjack Game

Blackjack is a classic card game that is universally adored by casino enthusiasts across the world. The game’s simplicity, combined with the strategic element of knowing when to stick and when to twist makes it a firm favourite among those who want the unpredictability of casino games while still utilising skill and expertise.
The rules of blackjack are quite simple, which is a major reason for the game's enduring popularity. The object is to get a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible without going over. A hand that goes over 21 is a bust. The players at a blackjack table do not play against each other; they play against the dealer. Each player only has to beat the dealer's hand.

The History of Blackjack

Early blackjack
Early blackjack

The game of blackjack is not known to have been “invented” by any one person in time, but rather a mixing and shuffling of different influences from around the globe.

One of the earliest assumptions, is that Blackjack was created by the Romans. No hard proof of this exists for this claim, but it is true that the Romans loved to gamble.

The most widely accepted origin of Blackjack was derived from a game discovered in France in the 18th Century called ‘Vingt-et-Un’ (French for ’21’).

It is suspected that Vingt-et-Un came from a modified version of another game called ‘Chemin de Fer’ (French for ‘way of the Iron”, because the cards were kept in an Iron box).

Another influence to the game of Blackjack came from Spain, who had a game called ‘One and Thirty’, in which the goal was to collect no more then 3 cards valuing 31 points, without going over.

Blackjack is very scientific. There's always a right answer and a wrong answer. Do you take a card, increase your bet, bet big or bet small. There's absolutely a right and wrong answer.

Charlie Ergen

Luckily for us Blackjack made its way to the United States in the early 1800’s and continued its successful growth when the State of Nevada made it legal to gamble in 1931.

That is the same year in which Nevada Casinos made a special bet from which the name “Blackjack history” was born.

Blackjack Basics

Online blackjack table
Online blackjack table
Blackjack
The name given to a hand consisting of an ace and a ten-point card. It is the best possible starting hand, and normally automatically wins for the player at odds of 3-2, though some casinos may offer lesser odds. If the dealer has a blackjack, all player hands immediately lose, except for blackjacks, which push.
Bust
A hand is said to bust when it reaches a point total of 22 or more. If a player busts by going over 21, he immediately loses all bets on that hand. If the dealer busts, all players still in the hand automatically win.
Double Down
This option allows the player to make a second bet in exchange for one more card, after which they must stand. This is typically only allowed on the first two cards a player receives. This allows the player to wager more money in advantageous situations, such as when holding an 11-point hand against a lower dealer up card.
Hard
A hard hand is one in which there is not an ace, or where the ace is only worth one point. Contrast to a soft hand.
Hit
Taking an additional card for your hand is called hitting. This is one of the two main options a player can use when playing their hand; the other is standing. Typically, dealers must hit with hands of 16 or less.
Hole Card
The dealer card which the players cannot see until it is revealed at the end of the hand. In many casinos, the dealer will peak at the hole card at the beginning of the hand in order to check for a blackjack if the dealer up card is an ace or a ten.
Insurance
If the dealer has an ace as their up card, each player will be offered insurance for half the price of their initial bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, the insurance bets pay off at 2-1 odds, meaning that players who have made the insurance bets will break even (since they still lose their initial bet). This is also offered to players who have a blackjack, who can get even money on their blackjacks instead of 3-2; mathematically, this is exactly the same as the insurance bet offered to other players.
Push
If the dealer and the player have hands of the same value, the player’s bet neither wins or loses; instead, it is considered a push. In other words, the player keeps their bet, but doesn’t win any additional money.
Shoe
The device which holds the cards from which the blackjack game is dealt. In live casinos, shoes are typically made up of anywhere from 1-8 decks. In online blackjack, casinos may even have shoes made up of an infinite number of decks, meaning that removing a card from the shoe has no impact on which card is dealt next.
Soft
A hand that includes an ace that still counts as 11 points. Soft hands cannot bust by taking an additional card, since the ace can revert to counting as just one point if necessary. Contrast to hard hands.
Split
Players may split their hands if the first two cards they receive are of the same rank. If they do, the player makes a second bet, and the two cards are played as separate hands. Each hand is now dealt a second card, after which the hands may usually be played as normal.
Stand
The decision to stop taking more cards is known as standing. This ends the player’s ability to play their hand. In most casinos, dealers must stand with a hand of 17 or higher.
Surrender
In some casinos, players will have the option to surrender, giving up their hand and losing only half of their initial bet. This option is normally invoked in situations where the player has almost no hope of winning the hand. There are two versions of this rule: early surrender, where the player may surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack, and late surrender, where the dealer checks for blackjack before the player has the surrender option.
Up Card
The dealer’s exposed card is known as the up card. The rank of the up card is the only information the player has about the dealer’s hand, and is therefore an important factor in determining player strategy.

The value of the cards

  • Number cards: the number is the value of the card.
  • Face cards: the value of face cards is 10.
  • Ace: either 1 or 11. It is counted as 11 (...generally) unless it would put you over 21, in which case it counts as 1.
    • Therefore, an ace and a ten card are 21 in two cards, which is Blackjack/Natural.
    • A hand containing an ace is called “soft” hand.

Blackjack Gameplay

I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.

Mitch Hedberg

Blackjack can be played with 2-8 players (including the dealer) using a standard 52 pack of cards. Blackjack is played a little bit different in casinos than it is at home with your friends. The main difference is that a house dealer managers shuffling, dealing, and bets at a casino. This is referred to as a “permanent bank.” This contrasts a “changing bank” where each player is allowed the opportunity to be the dealer of cards. Additionally, casinos use a 6 pack totaling 312 cards.

The object of blackjack is to be the player with the highest score without going over 21. This is why blackjack is often called 21. Your number is calculated by adding up the numeric value of each card. Face cards include the King, Queen, and Jack and are given a value of 10. The ace has an optional value of 1 or 11 depending on how you wish to play the card. As you can imagine, this swing card can come in very handy. Blackjack occurs when your cards add up to exactly 21.

If you go over 21, you “bust” and you lose. Likewise, if the dealer’s card count exceeds 21, every player who has not gone over the limit will win no matter how small the hand. In the case where a player’s score is equal to that of the dealer, this is called a “push” and in effect, it is a draw. The player does not win or lose on a push.

In blackjack, the suits have no meaning. Number cards have a value equal to their number, while all the picture cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are worth 10. Aces can be worth 11 or one, whichever is more beneficial to the person holding the hand. For example, a hand with an Ace and an Eight is worth 19 (the Ace is valued at 11, known as a soft Ace). A hand with an Ace, a Four, and a Nine is worth 14 (the Ace is valued at one, known as a hard Ace, because if it were valued at 11 the hand would bust).

Cards are shuffled until everything is mixed up very well. Then the dealer has another player “cut” the deck to ensure that the game is not rigged to give an advantage to the dealer or a player.

The dealer gives each player 2 cards, dealing cards in a clockwise rotation. Each player is dealt a single card face down. Once the first round has been dealt, the dealer places another card face up on top of the first card of each player. This allows players at the table to be able to know only one of the cards that opposing players have, making the game a bit more interesting.

There are two basic options when it's your turn:

  • Hit: get another card. You are able to hit until you go over 21.
  • Stand: keep your current cards and do nothing. You do not receive more cards.
  • There are also a few extra possibilities you can use for certain hands:
    • Taking insurance: this is only available when the dealer is showing an ace. You place a new bet that will then pay at 2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack. You lose your other bet (which would pay 1-1) but win the insurance, resulting in breaking even.
    • Double Down: you double your bet, and get only one more card. This is generally only used when your initial two cards equal 8-11 or soft 12 to soft 19.
    • Split: make two hands from one hand, if both cards are the same value. Tens, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are usually counted as 10 each. If both of your hands win, you get double the amount of money. If only one wins, you break even. If both hands lose, you lose double the money. Split the hands by separating the cards and placing a duplicate bet.
    • Surrender: in many casinos, you can (before playing and after determining if the dealer has a blackjack) choose to give up half of your bet without playing. Surrender is only desirable when the dealer is showing a 9-A, and the player has a 5-7 or 12-16. When the dealer has an ace, he or she automatically checks to see if a blackjack is had. Early surrender is when you opt out of half your bet before the dealer checks for a blackjack on their behalf.

Basic rules of thumb are to always stand hard 17 and over, never stand a soft 17, double soft hands A,2 and A,3 vs 5-6, A,4 and A,5 vs 4-6, and A,6 and A,7 vs 3-6.

Types of Blackjack

Blackjack table with cards and bets
Blackjack table with cards and bets

Online Blackjack has taken off since internet-based casino games first came to the fore. There’s no better way to spend a quiet night in then taking on the dealer at the authentic card game. For some, however, the standard format of Blackjack doesn’t always cut the mustard, and they require new casino games online to add an extra twist. If you’re one of those people, then you’re in luck, as here we take a look at five online Blackjack games that add a bit of extra spice to the much-loved card game.

Blackjack that is played in online casinos can be played in 2 different variants – video blackjack and live blackjack. The main difference is that video blackjack uses cards randomly generated by a computer. When playing against a real dealer, real cards are dealt and shuffled manually before being used in the game.

American and European Blackjack

Blackjack has several different styles – American and European. In the American blackjack, the dealer draws 2 cards, one face up and one face down. If the face up card is an ace, the second card is checked by the dealer and revealed in case it has a value of 10 and completes a blackjack. If that's not the case, the game continues and the face down card is shown to the player when it's the dealer's turn to draw another card or stand.

In European blackjack, the dealer receives only one card face up and draws only after the player has completed his hand.

Cashback Blackjack

We begin our list with a classic Blackjack variant game. Cashback Blackjack contains all the classic elements you would come to expect of an online Blackjack game, but with a twist. In this version, you are able to cash in on your hand before the final result is revealed, allowing you to end your hand early and still receive a win. If you decide to cash in, you’ll be offered an amount of money to do so – it’s up to you whether you want to take the deal or keep playing on in the hope of getting lucky!

Blackjack Switch

Blackjack Switch breathes a different kind of life into the beloved card game, giving you more flexibility and more ways to win. Of course, the overall aim as you would expect is to beat the dealer, by getting nearer to that magic number of 21, without exceeding it. The difference is that instead of one hand with which to achieve this, you get two, giving you more room to manoeuvre when it comes to deciding whether or not to stick or twist.

Buster Blackjack

Another favourite in the Blackjack variant game catalogue, Buster Blackjack revolves around hoping that the dealer goes bust. If they do, you’ll be presented with the buster bonus bet, which allows you to win up to a potential 2,000x your original stake. And, as an added incentive, if you’re holding a Blackjack when the dealer busts, you’ll be in line for an even bigger win. This one’s worth giving a go!

Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack

If you’re a horse racing fan struggling to cope with the lack of action taking place at the moment because of the coronavirus crisis, then Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack may be the game for you. It features the classic rules of Blackjack, but with the addition of a bonus side game. The aim is to collect a number of different trophy cards to secure bigger wins and bonuses. So saddle up and give this one a try!

Blackjack Surrender

Last on our list is Blackjack Surrender, a game for those who just can’t take the idea of losing! Slightly similar to Cashback Blackjack, the game allows you to surrender your hand in return for a percentage of your original bet, usually 50%. This is a great game if you’re just getting the hang of online Blackjack, as it allows you to cushion yourself against potential losses. Of course, as with any online casino game, the main thing is that you have fun!

How to Start Playing Blackjack Online

Perfect Pairs Blackjack
Perfect Pairs Blackjack
  1. Find a game

    Choose a Blackjack type that you like among different types. There is a few game types, each game has its own unique set of features. There are many other variations of blackjack. These can differ by rules concerning the dealer and sometimes the player as well. However, in practice the rules are always set to favour the casino.

    Also, there are other variations of blackjack where you play basically two different games simultaneously – blackjack and something else at the same time.

  2. Learn “House rules”

    Casinos have varying rules on insurance, splitting, and doubling down when it comes to how and when you can do it. Your dealer will surely let you know it if comes to this. For example, some casinos won't let you split a third Ace; for surrendering, some abide by early or late surrender only.

    Most casinos always “stand” on 17 and greater. Some will “hit” a “soft 17” (any 6 and an ace). Some casinos (though rarely) require an “ante” like in poker (play in those casinos favors the house as much as 20%).

  3. Play for free

    Try out card counting in free blackjack games, you can practice how the strategy is used, but you will not be able to get the advantage to your side, because the virtual deck is shuffled after each game round. To be able to see results, you need to play real-life games or at least live dealer blackjack, in which a number of game rounds are played with the same unshuffled deck.

  4. Set a budget

    When you are ready to play with your own money, it’s a good idea to set a budget before you start. That way you don’t start spending what you can’t afford to at the casino. Playing Blackjack can be an expensive hobby and things can quickly get out of control. Setting a budget also helps you to know how much you want to spend per round to make the fun last longer.

  5. Know when to walk away

    Just like in poker, blackjack has hot and cold tables. It doesn't take a pro to be able to recognize this - you'll know when you're running out of chips! If you're observant, you'll probably be able to tell which table is running hot just by watching.

    A good rule of thumb is to up your bet in increments. If you win two $5 bets and then lose a $10 bet, you're still even! When your winning streak stops, resume your initial minimum bet until the table goes hot again.

At night when I can't sleep, I play blackjack online until I get tired or I lose my money.

Nicky Hilton